Monday, March 7, 2005
Smith given extension through 2009
ESPN.com news services
San Diego Chargers: Usually, the winner of the NFL Executive of the Year honor tends to lose his job in the next seasons. It's happened to past winners such as Randy Mueller, Bill Polian, Jeff Diamond and others.
It's not going to happen to last season's top executive, A.J. Smith. Smith, the Chargers general manager, was rewarded for the team's 12-win season with a three-year, $4.5 million extension through 2009.
Smith earned top front office honors for his draft-day trade in which the Chargers received quarterback Philip Rivers and the Giants No. 1 pick in 2005 after Eli Manning didn't want to be a Charger. Smith also made shrewd free agent acquisitions such as Steve Foley and Randall Godfrey to change the defense into a 3-4.
With Drew Brees as the quarterback aof the present and Rivers as the quarterback of the future, the Chargers will move ahead into a positive period in which they hope to land a new stadium deal. And they make that move with Smith as their general manager.
Smith had two years remaining on his four-year, $4 million contract. His $1.5 million salary is in line with what Tim Ruskell received as president of the Seahawks and a little above what Ted Thompson just received to be general manager of the Packers.
Smith took over as general manager on April 22, 2003, after the passing of popular general manager John Butler. He is entering his 21st season in the NFL, his seventh with the Chargers.
Arizona Cardinals: Chike Okeafor left the Seahawks to join their NFC West rivals.
The Seahawks were offering $5 million per year, the same as the Cardinals. Okeafor thought about it an chose the Cardinals.
Okeafor accepted a five-year, $25 million that had a different structure than the five-year, $25 million contract signed a year ago by Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry, who ended up earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. With Okeafor and Berry, the Cardinals have perhaps the best pass-rushing duo in the division.
The 28-year-old Okeafor is a player who relies on hustle. He signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Seahawks in 2003 and developed into a defensive end who can get eight-and-a-half sacks in a season.
With Okeafor and Berry, the Cardinals hope to get 20 sacks a year out of the position. The two players can be together for at least the next four seasons because Berry has four years left on his contract.
Hambrick re-signed: The club re-signed running back Troy Hambrick for two years.
Hambrick, who has spent most of his career in the shadow of Emmitt Smith, signed a one-year contract with Oakland before last season. The Raiders traded him and defensive end Peppi Zellner to the Cardinals for a conditional 2005 draft pick on Aug. 31.
Hambrick, seeing limited action behind Smith, ran for 283 yards and one touchdown in 63 carries before he sprained his foot against Carolina on Nov. 21. Three days later, he was placed on injured reserve.
The Dallas Cowboys acquired Hambrick as an undrafted rookie in
2000, and he was Smith's backup for three years. But he beat out Smith in 2003 and gained 972 yards on 275 attempts, rushing for five TDs, as a 16-game starter for Dallas.
Cleveland Browns: Unrestricted offensive guard Cosey Coleman, a five-year veteran who had played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reached a contract agreement with the Browns, ESPN.com has learned.
Coleman becomes the second guard to join the Browns in free agency in less than a week. The team signed former New England starter Joe Andruzzi to a four-year, $9 million contract last week. The refurbishing of the interior of the line is not surprising, given that new Browns general manager Phil Savage recently used the term "dire straits" to refer to the situation.
A former University of Tennessee standout, and a second-round pick in the 2000 draft, Coleman agreed to a two-year contract that, with incentives, can be worth up to $3 million. It includes a signing bonus of $500,000. Coleman, 26, visited with Cleveland officials over the weekend and then met Monday with representatives of the Green Bay Packers.
In five seasons, Coleman started in 63 games and appeared in 71 contests overall. Most of his playing time was at right guard.
New York Giants: It may not be one of the biggest moves as the NFL quarterback carousel continues to turn but, given the implications, the Giants made a key acquisition on Monday, reaching agreement with unrestricted free agent Jim Miller on a one-year contract.
Miller, 34, hasn't thrown a pass in the last two seasons, including a stint in New England in 2004 in which he was the No. 3 emergency quarterback for all 16 games. In terms of serving as mentor to Eli Manning, however, and lending a veteran presence to the Giants depth chart, he figures to be an excellent fit. He will sign a one-year contract that includes a minimum base salary of $765,000 and a signing bonus of $25,000, but Miller will count just $475,000 against the New York salary cap.
The 10-year veteran has battled shoulder and ankle injuries the past two years and has not appeared in a game since midway through the 2002 campaign with the Chicago Bears. He signed with Tampa Bay in 2003 but was released when his rehabilitation lingered well into camp, then signed with New England last summer.
Miller has started in 27 of his 37 career appearances, and completed 610 of 1,047 passes for 6,387 yards, with 36 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions. His best season came in 2001, when he started 13 games and led the Bears to a division title. The Giants had also discussed the possibility of adding former Miami starter Jay Fiedler, but opted for Miller instead.
Giants add backup running back: The team also reached a two-year agreement with backup halfback Mike Cloud. Terms of the contract were not available.
Cloud could get more chances to play this season with Ron Dayne leaving through free agency. He had 21 carries for 90 yards and was the team's third leading rusher last season.
The 29-year-old Cloud is a 5-10, 205 pound running back who was a former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999.
Minnesota Vikings: In an effort to help replace Randy Moss, the club has discussed a trade that would net Washington Redskins receiver Rod Gardner, likely for a draft pick, The Star Tribune reported.
Rob Brzezinski, Vikings vice president of football operations, said he has been discussing various trades but wouldn't comment directly on Gardner.
"We are looking at every way possible to improve our football team. That includes the possibility of a trade," Brzezinski told the paper.
Gardner caught 51 passes for 650 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Redskins.
New England Patriots: The club re-signed
fullback Patrick Pass, an unrestricted free agent.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Also, the Patriots hired former Atlanta Falcons offensive
coordinator Pete Mangurian as the tight ends coach. Mangurian has
25 years of experience, including three as the head coach at
Used primarily as a blocker, Pass had 39 carries for 151 yards
and 28 catches for 215 yards -- all career bests -- last season for
the Super Bowl champions. His 39 rushes were more than his first
four seasons combined, and third on the team.
Pass was a seventh-round pick in the 2000 draft. He has run 68
times for 319 yards and caught 42 passes for 319 yards in five
seasons. He also has 34 kickoff returns for 714 yards and 42
tackles on special teams.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The team kept one of their own, reaching a two-year, $2.5 million contract with cornerback Willie Williams that includes a $500,000 signing bonus.
Williams will be entering his 13th season. He started the final 10 games last season along with two playoff games, filling in for the injured Chad Scott. With Scott released as a salary cap casualty, Williams was an important player to re-sign.
Williams is considered an ideal No. 3 cornerback coming off the bench, but he's been pressed into starting service often during his years in Pittsburgh and Seattle. At 34 years old, he doesn't appear to be slowing down.
The Steelers also reached a five-year, $7.5 million agreement with kicker Jeff Reed.
Reed is a restricted free agent with a first-round tender. That tender and the price of giving up a first-round choice to acquire him killed Reed from getting any offers from teams in free agency. The Vikings would have been one of the teams who would have tried to sign Reed had the Steelers giving him a low tender.
Reed received a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Looking to catch a free agent: The Steelers are expected to begin their pursuit of free agents, beginning with San Francisco 49ers receiver Cedrick Wilson, the Tribune-Review reported.
Wilson was scheduled to fly into Pittsburgh on Sunday night, and meet with Steelers officials at the team's practice facility on the South Side on Monday.
Atlanta Falcons: The club signed safety
Rich Coady, another low-key acquisition for the team that
reached the NFC championship game last season.
The 29-year-old Coady has spent all but one of his six NFL
seasons with St. Louis, starting five games for the Rams in 2004.
He played in all 16 games and finished with 44 tackles.
Indianapolis Colts: The club cleared $1.2 million of cap room by releasing defensive end Brad Scioli. He was scheduled to collect a $1.5 million option bonus Thursday.
His base salary was $1.714 million.It's not out of the question for the Colts to offer him a chance to come back on the roster at a later time.
Scioli started 25 games on the defensive line for the Colts in 2001 and 2002 but became a backup the past two years. Seven times last season, he was on the team's inactive list even though he was healthy.
ESPN.com senior NFL writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press contributed to this report.